Spring Tea

Augusta Historical Society Fundraiser

Set against the backdrop of a bright sunny, blue sky, the Augusta Historical Society held their annual Spring Tea fundraiser on Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7th inside the historic C.N. James cabin.

C.N. James Cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This was the first time the event has been held since the pandemic began in 2020.

Tables were decorated by volunteers with their own personal china, linens and handkerchiefs to accompany the theme of “Grandmother’s Handkerchief.”  

Tables were decorated in the theme: Grandmothers’ Handkerchief.

The guests were dressed in florals and many wore hats for the festive occasion dined on finger sandwiches, and an array of desserts along with tea from the Spice Merchant.

Sierra Marie Bonn, Miss Butler County, welcomed guests and visited with them during the tea on Saturday.

      “We’ve been doing this for 25 years and we’re so excited to be back again,” said Priscilla Templin, Executive Director of the Augusta Historical Society and Museum. 

Priscilla Templin, Executive Director of the Augusta Historical Society, right, with Miss Butler County Sierra Marie Bonn.

The Haas family has been attending the tea party for 20 years and was glad for the event to return.

Chris Haas, left, enjoyed tea with her family. Pictured right is Ashley Haas.

“We first came when my daughters were 4 and 6,” said Chris Haas, mother to Abby, 24 and Ashley, 26. 

They, along with Chris’ mother-in-law, sister-in-law and niece have made the tea party an annual girls’ day ever since.

Funds raised through the Spring Tea will contribute to the overall goal of $40,000 needed to restore the C.N. James Cabin.

C.N. James Cabin estoration fundraising goal is $40,000

The cabin was built in 1868 by Chester (C.N.) James and his wife Augusta. The cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and is one of only two log cabins on its original site in the State of Kansas. It is the oldest building in Augusta and one of the oldest landmarks in Butler County.

El Dorado Elks Turns 100

The El Dorado Elks Lodge is turning 100 years old and invites the community to help them celebrate.  Friday, February 5, 2021 marks the beginning of their historic 100th year and events are planned for the entire weekend to mark the occasion. 

Beginning on Friday, February 5th at 6:00 p.m. the Elks will be holding a Monterrey dinner and skit comedy performance of Carol Burnett skits. They are planning to add a few musical numbers.  A cash bar will be available. 

On Saturday, February 6th the Matt Engels band will be performing and a pulled pork and cowboy beans dinner will be on the menu.  The cash bar will be open on Saturday as well. 

On Sunday, February 7th they will celebrate the original founding of the El Dorado Elks Lodge with an open house from 2 -4 p.m. 

The Lodge was established on February 7, 1921, and is located at 121 E. Pine in El Dorado.  They recently remodeled and returned to their original building after being in another location for 36 years.  The building was originally built in 1931. 

The El Dorado Elks Lodge was originally built as the home of the Lodge in 1931.  The Elks after 36 years removed from the site, remodeled their historic home and returned to the building.
The El Dorado Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting with the El Dorado Elks Lodge in front of the newly remodeled building. 

First Butler County Settler a Horse Thief?

In keeping with the goal of providing verifiable information on the founding of El Dorado, and it’s early founders, Everyday El Dorado is producing a weekly podcast series that airs on KBTL 88.1 each Wednesday at 12 p.m. 

In the episode titled, “Hildebrand – Horse Thief or Holy Roller?,” the story surrounding the first settler in Butler County is examined.  

According to William G. Cutler’s “History of the State of Kansas, ”William Hildebrand is supposed to have been the first settler near El Dorado, having taken a claim near where J. D. Conner’s farm now lies. In 1859, his place which had become a sort of headquarters for horse thieves, was raided, and Hildebrand after joining the order of the flagellants or anglice, getting a sound thrashing at the hands of the vigilantes, was given twenty-four hours to effect his escape from the county, and disappeared forever from El Dorado’s horizon.”

This information on Hildebrand is all that is passed down by successive historians and documentarians, but in researching the history of El Dorado, another story begins to emerge. 

The Reverend WIlliam Hildebrand and Colonel Alexander Bigham came to Butler County in April 1857 and settled in the area that is present day El Dorado. 

In an article appearing in the Lawrence Republican dated August 27, 1857, Hildebrand was identified by the article’s writer (presumed to be the founding party’s lead military man, Captain Joseph Cracklin) as a missionary and one of two settlers. 

“Just two months from the 3rd inst., the day of election, the Eldorado Town Association selected this locality for their town site.  At that time but two white persons resided in the Walnut River valley, from the extreme northern post to the Osage Reserve.  These two were the Rev. William Hildebrand, former a Missionary amongst the Cherokees and Chickasaws, and now preparing to carry his Christiam labors to the Osages.  The other, Col. Alexander Bigham, from Miss., who distinguished himself at the taking of Monterey in Mexico, and at the storming of the Bishop/s palace was severely wounded.  We here regard him as quite an acquisition to our town.”

How did Hildebrand go from first being identified as a Missionary to his place in history as a horse thief?  That road is a winding one, as much of the information recorded about him comes from the daughter of the man he is accussed of stealing from and orchestrating his murder.  

Augusta Stewart, the daughter of town founder Sam Stewart, kept a diary during her family’s travel out west, the early years of Eldorado, and subsequently, she documented some of the events surrounding her father’s death.  That journal was later published by descendants in a four volume set titled “Augusta’s Journal.” 

Stewart’s journal, which was later researched and edited, by herself and family, provides additional clues as to why the story recorded in our history books, about Hildebrand, is a story about a horse theft and omits other key details.   

Diaries and journals, while considered a great primary source, must be read through a lens of understanding it was only one perspective.  The clues Stewart provides give a springboard for looking in new directions that offer additional information. That information will be the topic of discussion on this week’s episode, which looks at some of those clues to gain a bigger picture of the first settler in Butler County, 

Everyday El Dorado can be heard Wednesday at 12 p.m. on KBTL 88.1 and by streaming online at kbtl.butlercc.edu

Celebrating Brigadier General A. W. Ellet

While researching the history of El Dorado, it was discovered that one of our early residents and town builders has a historic birthday of his own.

Brigadier General Alfred Washington Ellet was born on October 11, 1820 and the 200th anniversary of his birth is this year.

Ellet received his promotion to Brigadier General from President Abraham Lincoln and gained fame for his instrumental role in the battle of Memphis and the capture of Vicksburg, which aided the Union’s assumption of control over the entire Mississippi River.  The original document promoting Ellet to Brigadier General is located at the Butler County Historical Society Home of the Kansas Oil Museum.

An account of his heroic contributions to the Civil War can be found in the “History of the Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade in the War for the Union on the Mississippi and its Tributaries.The Story of the Ellets and their Men.”

The book chronicles Brigadier General Ellet’s command of a fleet of steam ironclad ramboats that battled for control of major riverways and assaulted the Confederate fleet and stronghold at Vicksburg.  The members of Ellet’s fleet were perhaps the first regularly commissioned United States Marines.  

Ellet began investing in El Dorado in 1873 and made many trips to visit his son Edward Ellet before finally locating Butler County. He was primarily living in Topeka as late as 1875 and traveled to former homes in Philadelphia and Illinois. His political connections took him to Washington, D.C., where he successfully lobbied for the Florence, El Dorado, and Walnut Valley Railroad, which later became the Santa Fe. 

Along with his son Edward Ellet, and friend Nathan Frazier, he helped organize the Bank of El Dorado, which eventually became Farmers and Merchants Bank.  

His last name may sound familiar to many because it was bestowed on the building he had built for El Dorado – The Ellet Opera House.  

The Ellet Opera House opened in 1884, and became the cultural heart of the city.  It was the location of most public entertainment, from lectures by prominent speakers and political speeches to commencement ceremonies and church services.  The Ellet Opera house was also host to talent shows and grand balls, as well as opera singers and eventually vaudeville. 

A display featuring memorabilia donated to the museum by descendants of Ellet is planned as part of El Dorado’s 150th birthday celebration

Happy Birthday, General Ellet.

Crossroads: Change in Rural America

The Butler County Historical Society and Kansas Oil Museum wants Butler County residents to become part of the traveling Smithsonian/Humanities Kansas exhibit “Rural Crossroads: The Changing Faces and Places of Butler County”. 

By contributing to this exhibit  citizens can help tell the story of Butler County.  Two areas of specific interest are Butler County towns and Farms & Ranches that are no longer in existence. 

Crossroads: Change in Rural America

In 1900, about 40% of Americans lived in rural areas, By 2010, less than 18% of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. In just over a century, massive economic and social changes moved millions of Americans into urban areas. Yet, only 10% of the U.S. landmass is considered urban.

Many Americans consider rural communities to be endangered and hanging on by a thread—suffering from brain drain, inadequate schools, and a barren, overused landscape. Why should revitalizing the rural places left behind matter to those who remain, those who left, and those who will come in the future? Because there is much more to the story of rural America.

“Crossroads: Change in Rural America” is a traveling Smithsonian exhibition and is part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils nationwide. 

The exhibit offers small towns a chance to look at their own paths to highlight the changes that affected their fortunes over the past century. The exhibition will prompt discussions about what happened when America’s rural population became a minority of the country’s population and the ripple effects that occurred.

Here is how you can be a part of this exhibit:

Search through your photos for any images of Butler County’s past (1850’s – present). Topics include, but are not limited to: specific & identifiable buildings; streets; roads; places; events; activities; etc. 

Replicate that scene or take a current photo of the same topic.

Haberlein’s at Central and Main in 1955
Specs in 2020, formerly Haberlein’s.

Scan the photos & download the photo release form that can be found on the Kansas Oil Museum’s website.  

Email the photo(s) and the completed photo release form to director@kansasoilmuseum.org. Please include any pertinent information you have regarding the photo, such as location, when it was taken, individuals in the photo and who took the photo. 

Photos must be submitted by July 31, 2020

All photos, old and new, must be of Butler County people, places, activities, or events.

While no monetary compensation will be given for the scans of these photos, the museum will acknowledge the proper parties based on information provided in signed permission forms.

Release forms, as well as additional information, can be found by visiting kansasoilmuseum.org and clicking on the “Rural Crossroads” tab.